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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Cat 3 Hurricane Michael Just Hours Away From Impact; Forecast Cone Stretches From Florida To New Jersey; Hurricane Hunter Flying Over Michael: "This Is Not The Storm That You Want To Ride Out; Trump Says He Has Five People On His List To Replace Haley At The U.N., Ivanka Says It "Will Not Be Me". Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 9, 2018 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[19:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, this is an important person. She is not the only woman, only person speaking for the Democratic Party, but there you go.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We got to leave there it, guys. Thanks very much. "Erin Burnett OutFront" starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And "OutFront" next, we have breaking news. Hurricane Michael now a major Category 3 storm, gaining strength as it closes in on the Florida Panhandle. I'll speak to a pilot flying over the storm who says no one should ride this one out.

Plus, Nikki Haley suddenly quits as U.N. ambassador. Why now? And who are the five people on President Trump's short list to replace her?

And Mitch McConnell is not done fighting after the Kavanaugh battle. Who is his new target? Let's go "OutFront."

Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett.

"OutFront" tonight breaking news, a Cat 3 massive storm that is gaining strength. Hurricane Michael now called a historic life- threatening storm with sustained winds of 120 miles per hour. At this hour, the storm is intensifying as it heads towards the Florida Panhandle. Michael is expected to make landfall tomorrow.

President Trump already declaring a state of emergency in Florida and ordering Homeland Security and FEMA to coordinate all relief operations. This is Michael, we're going to show you, as seen from space. Terrifying.

The fast-moving storm is heading north over the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. More than 20 million people across five states are under hurricane watches or warnings tonight. Michael is forecast to be the strongest storm to hit the U.S. this year.

In all, some 300 miles of coastline are threatened with devastating winds, with storm surge up to 13 feet, and up to a foot of rain in parts of the state, bringing, of course, life-threatening flooding. Perhaps most in danger are those living on islands off the coast.

The bridges connecting them to the mainland may soon be closed, leaving people nowhere to go. Residents are being urged to get out by tonight, or it may be too late. Evacuation orders have been issued for 22 Florida counties. Florida's Governor Rick Scott, he made his warning crystal clear today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: We're going to do everything we can to help you, but do not wait. If there's an evacuation order, go to safety. If you're on the fence, don't think about it. Do it. This storm can kill you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: We are covering this dangerous storm with reporters spread out across Florida's Panhandle.

Let's begin with Meteorologist Allison Chinchar. She's at the CNN weather center for us. Allison, what is the latest on the path for Hurricane Michael?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. So we still expect landfall with Hurricane Michael to impact somewhere along the Florida Panhandle likely late tomorrow afternoon. So, again, we're now down to less than 12 hours. Right now winds are 120 miles per hour moving north at about 12 miles per hour. But it is still possible that this storm could intensify a little bit more before it makes landfall.

Now keep in mind a little bit more, well, let's say we jump up 10 miles per hour up to 130, that actually makes it a Category 4. So, we're close enough that it's something we have to keep a close eye on even though the official hurricane center forecast keeps it only at a 3.

Here is a look at that track again. Some time Wednesday afternoon is when we expect it to make landfall over the Panhandle of Florida. From there, it pushes up towards states like Georgia, South and North Carolina, and eventually bringing some of the heavy rain bands up towards Virginia as well.

Storm surge is going to be one of the biggest concerns with this, especially along the coastline. This purple region here, including the city of Apalachicola, we're now talking storm surge of 9 feet to 13 feet. The red areas you see here, including Panama City, now you're talking 6 feet to 9 feet.

But even a city like Tampa that seems very far away still likely to get storm surge of upwards of about 2 feet to 4 feet. Wind is also going to be a concern. Wind was not really the key component to Hurricane Florence, but this is a different storm. We are still expecting those forecast winds to be upwards of 100 miles per hour, and that's going to be widespread.

The unfortunate thing there, Kate, is that that can then lead to power outages, not just along the coastline, but even cities far inland, like Columbia or even Atlanta could end up dealing with widespread power outages.

BOLDUAN: Wow. All right, Allison, thank you so much.

I'm joined on the phone now by Richard Henning, a flight director with NOAA's hurricane hunters. He's on board a plane that just flew over Hurricane Michael. Richard, can you hear me?

RICHARD HENNING, NOAA METEOROLOGIST AND FLIGHT DIRECTOR (on the phone): Yes, Kate, I can hear you just fine.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. You have the very latest information on this storm. What are you seeing?

HENNING: Well, right now we have three aircraft actually in the storm. We have the NOAA high altitude Gulfstream IV Jet. We're at 45,000 feet flying across the top of the storm. We also have (INAUDIBLE) P-3, which is a turboprop plane down at low altitude penetrating the eye wall. And we also have an Air Force Reserve C-130 doing the same thing from a different direction.

[19:05:02] So what we're seeing with all aircraft is that the storm is intensifying. The pressure in the center has dropped all the way down to 956 millibars, which is a lot lower than it was this morning. The lower the pressure in the eye, the stronger the storm is. And the winds have increased up to sustained winds of 120 miles per hour. So this is a legitimate Category 3 hurricane at this point.

BOLDUAN: So this is a major storm. And there is going to be another update, another national update at the top of the hour. Do you think that it's going to be gaining strength by then?

HENNING: I'm not sure they're going to bump up the intensity any in the next advisory or not. It all depends on what the aircraft finds down lower in the eye wall. However, the forecast with the hurricane center is for the storm to continue to intensify this evening up through the upper end of a Category 3, close to Category 4 intensity. So people need to be ready for that.

And when you get right down to it, if you live along the shoreline, it doesn't really make much of a difference if it's a strong Category 3 or a low-end Category 4. For the destructive power, it's not very -- there is not much difference.

BOLDUAN: So from your perspective, flying through this with the latest data, when the governor says that this could be -- this is a monstrous storm and it could be the worst destruction in a decade for the Panhandle, you don't think he is overstating it?

HENNING: Oh, not at all. I think you actually have to go all the way back to 1975 for the old-timers. There was a storm, Hurricane Eloise that followed a similar track and was very destructive. But there weren't nearly as many people living along the coastline in the Panhandle back then. Since then we had Hurricane Opal in 1995, Hurricane Ivan in 2004. They were both very, very destructive. And I think that unfortunately, Michael is following right along with those types of storms, that type of devastation.

BOLDUAN: That is terrifying. You -- for perspective, you also flew over Hurricane Florence several times. How does Hurricane Michael compare to Florence? Do they look different?

HENNING: They are different storms. Hurricane Florence was much larger in terms of diameter. Hurricane Michael is more compact and intense. Hurricane Florence was weakening as it approached the coast. Hurricane Michael is intensifying as it's approaching the coast. So they're actually very different storms.

BOLDUAN: I hope we still have you. I hope we still have you, Richard. What worries you most as you're flying over this storm and this storm is getting closer and closer to land?

HENNING: Well, again, the risk of storm surge and very, very powerful wind is increasing, so everyone needs to heed the warnings of the local emergency management folks with this storm. This is not the storm that you want to ride out.

BOLDUAN: Richard Henning, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time.

HENNING: Yes, ma'am. And again, for all your audience listening on the Florida Panhandle, I would strongly urge everyone to have a plan and execute that plan right away for getting out.

BOLDUAN: This coming from the man flying over this storm right now. That's an important warning. Thank you again.

HENNING: Thank you, ma'am.

BOLDUAN: All right. "OutFront" with me now, AccuWeather Storm Chaser Reed Timmer. He's on his way to Panama City Beach, Florida to ride the storm out this hurricane.

Reed, you just heard what the NOAA hurricane hunter said. I mean he called this a very dangerous situation and that the storm is likely to gain strength still. What are you anticipating?

REED TIMMER, ACCUWEATHER STORM CHASER: Well, I can certainly reiterate just how dangerous this storm is going to be. It's intensifying. That's very different than Hurricane Florence that was weakening as it came in.

Hurricane Harvey if you may remember last year was an intensifying storm rapidly as it came in as a Category 4 down near Rockport, Texas, and the wind damage was absolutely catastrophic from that. Any weak structure would be completely knocked down by winds of that.

And with 125 miles per hour sustained winds you have gusts much stronger than that. That's basically like a widespread EF-2 or EF-3 tornado in terms of the damage. And then you have that catastrophic storm surge as well. Anywhere near and just to the right of the center, and that's going to extend all the way down to even north of the Tampa Bay area.

You have all different kinds of inlet there's and con cavity along the Florida Panhandle shoreline which is very storm surge-prone. So we have those onshore winds just hammering, battering the coast. And it's just not survivable on those barrier islands.

[19:10:03] BOLDUAN: I mean, the winds, just even the thought of 120 sustained winds-mile-per-hour winds is a terrifying thought.

I want to show our viewers, Reed, video of Hurricane Dennis from 2005. It's the last time that a major hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle. When you see the destruction that was done back then, just how vulnerable is the area where you're going to be?

TIMMER: It is incredibly vulnerable. And looking back through the AccuWeather archives, all the way back to 1975 I could find a hurricane that was similar, that took a similar track at least that landfall that was Hurricane Eloise there that came in as a Category 3 with maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour. This one could even be stronger than that. It's a very compact storm. Who knows how strong this could intensify.

As the hurricane hunter pilot said, there is not much of a difference between a strong Category 3 and a weak Category 4. Either one of those are going to be deadly, especially along those barrier islands near and just to the right of center.

Another hurricane that took a similar track was Hurricane Opal in 1995. That came in further west near the Pensacola area and brought a 15-foot storm surge there in Pensacola. There are dozens of fatalities from both of those storms.

So a storm like this, it's fast-moving. It's strengthening as it comes in. It's going to have a quick devastating storm surge. It's going to come in fast along with those winds, and it's just something you don't want to be a part of.

BOLDUAN: Reed, what do folks need to be prepared for if they decide to stick this out? Do you think its worse that we're talking about these winds that are going to be coming ashore or the storm surge?

TIMMER: Well, I think its both right near the shoreline. You have those winds and you have the storm surge. And eventually it's going to be too dangerous to leave. And the surge in the water will come up well in advance of the storm system. So now is the time to leave and get out of the path of this. But it's certainly a one-two punch with both that wind and the storm surge, very different from Hurricane Florence.

BOLDUAN: And very different from Hurricane Florence, and just as dangerous, if not more. We're going to check in with you throughout the week. Reed, we know you take many precautions to be safe as this is your job, my friend. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it, Reed. Thank you. We'll talk to you soon.

TIMMER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: "OutFront" for us next, massive evacuation orders as Hurricane Michael strengthens. I'm going to talk to a mayor whose city could be right in the path of the storm tonight.

Plus, the President tonight says there are five people on his short list to replace U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Who are they? Lindsey Graham says Trump jokingly asked if he wanted to be attorney general. Was it really a joke?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:16:03] BOLDUAN: Breaking news, have a plan and execute that plan right away for getting out, that warning tonight from a NOAA hurricane hunter that I just spoke to. The Panhandle is about to see its first major hurricane since 2005. Hurricane Michael right now, a Category 3 that could approach the intensity of a Category 4.

"OutFront" now is Gary Jarvis. He's the mayor of Destin, Florida, parts of which are under evacuation orders. Mayor, thank you for coming in.

MAYOR GARY JARVIS, DESTIN, FLORIDA: You're welcome. Glad to be here.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. The NOAA hurricane hunter that I just spoke with said that no one should be riding out this storm along the shoreline. How worried are you tonight?

JARVIS: Fortunately, if the storm continues on its projected path, it bodes well for our community. We're going to be on the west side of the storm, which means we'll have winds out of the northeast and the east, which reduces threats of storm surge and the overall effect of the wind.

So, I hate it for my brethren and friends and families to the east of us, but somebody's got to get hit, and right now it doesn't look like we're going to take the brunt of the storm. So, in many respects we're very thankful at this time.

BOLDUAN: In many respects you're thankful and obviously hoping for the best, but I'm sure you still have the warning out to all the residents of Destin to take heed?

JARVIS: Yes. We did mandatory evacuations this morning at 11:00 a.m. on the low-lying areas in our community. We had a great response from our visitors here, the tourists that were staying at a lot of these vacation rental areas, and from residents.

I think everybody realizes this is a major storm. There can always be changes. So the people that are in jeopardy of flooding or storm surge, most of them have left those areas and gone to higher ground.

And there's a lot of us that have been through a lot of these storms, been watching it very closely, taking it very seriously. But at the same time, there is a lot of us that are going to stay.

BOLDUAN: You're going to be sticking around, yes.

JARVIS: For a number of reasons. My family is here. Our businesses are here. And I got this position as mayor. I feel a responsibility to stay here and hope to see the city through this epic event that we're about to take place tomorrow morning and tomorrow afternoon.

BOLDUAN: And mayor, I mean a Category 3 storm has sustained winds of -- maximum sustained winds of 120 miles an hour. What could that mean for the Panhandle?

JARVIS: For the areas closest to the eye, the first 20 to 30 miles from the eye, it's going to tear up a bunch of stuff. That starts tearing roofs off, the shingles, lays down a lot of trees. I'm sure that even with the tropical storm winds, which is projected for our community, we're going see some power outages, downed trees, stuff like that.

So our main focus is going to be assess the damage that we will get and try to get everything back up and running. This is our fall break for the kids, and we're going try to get this thing back together in time for Saturday's check-in so we can have a good week next week.

BOLDUAN: Here's hoping that that is possible, mayor. Thank you very much. Good luck to you and the community. Appreciate your time.

JARVIS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: "OutFront" for us next, Nikki Haley's surprise resignation as U.N. Ambassador. Who is on President Trump's short list now to replace her?

And you wouldn't want to be attorney general, would you? Have you ever had that question? Lindsey Graham says that was the question that President Trump jokingly asked him, but was he really kidding?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:23:35] BOLDUAN: Breaking news, President Trump saying tonight he has five names on his list to replace outgoing U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. One name not on the list, his daughter Ivanka. The first daughter tweeting tonight the following, "That replacement will not be me."

Now that we have that confirmed, this came now soon after her father talked about her as glowingly as one could, saying that she would make a, "dynamite ambassador." So with Ivanka Trump off the list, who is on the short list?

One name that I'm told is Dina Powell. She is a former deputy national security adviser who left the administration last year. And she is -- she left the administration last year and is something that the President now also confirmed earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Dina is certainly a person I would consider, and she is under consideration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Jeff Zeleny is in Council Bluffs, Iowa right now where President Trump is about to take the stage for a rally. Jeff, what else do we know about who might replace Nikki Haley and when it might happen?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, the President said earlier today he plans to make this decision in the next two to three weeks. So it's unclear if it will be done before the midterm elections. There is no real hurry in this because, of course, she said she will stay until the end of the year. And this isn't exactly central on his mind.

He is going to be doing a lot of rally stops like this over the next month. We are one month to the midterms. But there is no question there will be a lot of people vying for the position.

[19:25:03] And as of now, I mean, with the Ivanka Trump sort of saying she's not interested, and one of the reasons is, Kate, the reality is the financial disclosure she would have to go through for a confirmation hearing would be something that she may not be willing to do.

So, of course, Dina Powell's name is first and foremost. But also look at some senators who are leaving the Senate, perhaps. Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, he's at a rocky relationship with President Trump, but he is a possible name that was mentioned.

There will be a lot of people who are mentioned for this position. The question is, though, which direction will the President go. His cabinet is not exactly brimming over with women and minorities, so that is something that he's been interested in and concerned about. So we'll see if that is a factor for him, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And despite what the President said earlier today, Nikki Haley's resignation did come as a surprise to many in the administration, right, Jeff?

ZELENY: No question. People inside the White House were not expecting the President to make that announcement today. But I'm told that he wanted to make the Oval Office announcement to make it look like someone was not leaving him in anger, that he was in charge of the departure.

We've seen so many people essentially, you know, resigning by tweet or leaving by tweet. This was definitely a soft landing at an official Oval Office departure. But, it was a surprise to John Bolton, the National Security Adviser, to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It was very closely held.

But, Kate, the key thing, the date on the resignation letter was October 3rd, that is a week ago tomorrow. That is when Nikki Haley met with President Trump in the Oval Office to give him that resignation letter. That happened to come, though, the morning after the President mocked Christine Blasey Ford, had a rally just like this in Mississippi.

So he did not want to publicly accept the resignation then in the middle of the Kavanaugh fight. It was saved until today. But, Kate, it's one of the rare examples we've seen, the President kept this very close to the vest and virtually no one else knew about it. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Good point. Maybe the one and only that we at least have on the record right now. Great to see you, Jeff. Thank you very much.

"OutFront" with me tonight, Doug Heye. He's a former Communications Director for the RNC. Paul Begala, former White House Counselor to President Clinton, and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, White House Report for "The New York Times." It's great to see you guys.

It's great to have you here, Julie. What do you make of the announcement? Quite a strange day.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It was. And it is -- as Jeff just pointed out, it's fairly unusual to see somebody get the kind of Oval Office treatment on their way out the door. He kind of went out of his way and we know that, you know, Nikki Haley has felt pretty free to disagree with President Trump. She wrote that op-ed in "The Washington Post" after the anonymous op- ed --

BOLDUAN: That's right.

DAVIS: -- ran in "The New York Times" basically saying, "I've had my differences with the President, but I'm never afraid to voice them." And so, you know, that's sort of been her sort of persona that she's forged within this administration and for him to affirmatively want to do that photo op with her and talk at length about what she's meant to this administration was I think pretty significant.

And I think there were interests, her interests and his interest was in showing sort of an amicable parting. But I think we're going to find out in the months ahead what was behind this decision, why she timed it the way she did. I think Jeff is right. She didn't want to leave and he didn't want her to leave in the middle of the Kavanaugh fight. But there's also the midterm election coming up.

BOLDUAN: Right.

DAVIS: And if Republicans lose the House or the Senate, which is a possibility, I think she did not want it to look like she was jumping ship at a difficult time.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating. I mean, the timing here, the timing here is an important thing. It is a fascinating thing, Paul. I mean, the President today said that he knew -- he at least said that he knew it was coming. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: She told me probably six months ago, she said, "You know, maybe at the end of the year, the end of a two-year period, at the end of a year, I want to take a little time off. I want to take a little break."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: But just to reiterate, as Jeff was pointing out, sources tell CNN John Bolton and Mike Pompeo were surprised by the announcement. In fact, it seems like almost all senior administration officials, and there are a lot of them, were caught off guard by this. If it wasn't coordinated, if this was sudden, why? What is it mean?

PAUL BEGALA, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: The truth is I have no idea. I have no idea why they can't get even -- this is a very important job, but this is a simple personnel matter, right?

Two years is a reasonable tenure for a U.N. ambassador, by the way. This will probably ruin her chances when she runs for president. She did a very good job. She is one of the stars of this star-crossed administration. And yet they can't seem to even get the blocking and tackling right. I have no idea why.

I will say this. Nikki Haley, as U.N. Ambassador, she has been able to manipulate -- not manipulate -- maneuver properly from allies and adversaries and all the back stabbing and that's just at the Trump White House. She's had to do the same thing at the U.N. So it's taken an enormous amount of diplomatic talent to get where she is. I just don't know why she is leaving so abruptly. It don't -- it doesn't make sense.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Diplomacy, not your strong suit, I'll tell you that, Paul. But --

BEGALA: But here I'm praising her, though. I'm praising Republicans. I mean, give me a little time.

BOLDUAN: You started by saying manipulating and then maneuver it, OK?

BEGALA: No, that was literally --

BOLDUAN: I know. I know.

BEGALA: -- I just misquote.

BOLDUAN: I'm kidding. I'm kidding. I like to do that with you, except I'm not.

Haley did not shed much light today, Doug, on why she is moving. She said clear it's not for personal reasons. She also said she believes in term limits which might come back to bite her later. But she is not leaving because she has any presidential aspirations, at least in 2020. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I will say this. For all of you that are going to ask about 2020 -- no, I am not running for 20. I can promise you what I'll be doing is campaigning for this one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: But this is about 2024? Or more immediately, as Julie was saying, is this about the presidential party getting shellacked in the midterm?

DOUG HEYE, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Obviously, some of us and myself expected that the party will at least on the House side get shellacked in the midterms.

But no one is going to blame the U.N. ambassador for anything that happens politically in any given congressional district. Especially given that Nikki Haley has been such a star for this administration, with so many White House and administration employees basically having a life span shorter than milk, that Nikki Haley has not only able to survive this long, but has really been able to thrive, build relationships, build credibility, and be a steady hand at very unsteady times, has made her a real -- not just a rock star, but a real rock for this administration.

It's not going to have any real impact on the elections. But certainly anything that happens in this White House, we know is going to be more choppy water that they have to deal with.

BOLDUAN: And, of course, talk about the next choppy water for this position, whose going to replace Nikki Haley? I mean, she went out of her way, and I know forensically dissecting this, what they said in the oval office, but everything was fascinating. She went out of her way to effusively praise the president, his family, especially Jared and Ivanka, Julie.

Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALEY: I can't say enough good things about Jared and Ivanka. Jared is such a hidden genius that no one understands. We're a better country because they're in this administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So, Ivanka took herself out of the running tonight. Dina Powell, former deputy national security adviser, she is top of list, on the short list if you will because the president said that tonight. What are you hearing? Who could it be?

JULIE HIRSCHFIELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think Dina Powell has a very good chance of getting this position. Not only because the president has mentioned her, he then said on air force one to a bunch of reporters that she would love it. She is up for this. You know, and just as Nikki Haley went out of her way to show that she was very close with Jared and Ivanka, and there was no daylight between them.

BOLDUAN: Right.

DAVIS: They're also very close with Dina Powell. They're all of a piece. There is a dwindling number of people.

BOLDUAN: Could she get confirmed easily?

DAVIS: Well, I feel she could be confirmed more easily than some of the people Trump might choose for this post. She already was confirmed for a presidentially nominated position in the Bush administration, so she has been through that process.

BOLDUAN: True, true.

DAVIS: She has done that and frankly, a lot of Democrats who deal with foreign policy on Capitol Hill, for them she is a known quality. They trust her more than they might trust some other people who the president might consider, certainly more than Rick Grenell, who is the ambassador to Germany right now. You know, he's been quite partisan, or had been before he was in his current position.

So, I think that they would consider her to be a little bit more of a familiar face. And she might have an easier time. But that said, it's going to be a fight. You know, this will end up being sort of a proxy battle over President Trump's foreign policy and his disdain for multilateral organizations like the U.N., and she will have to deal with that, just as any nominee would have to deal with that.

BOLDUAN: I think that's an excellent point.

DAVIS: If she ends up being the person.

BOLDUAN: That's an excellent point. Paul, the president says all the time, it's almost like a verbal crutch. He says oh, in two or three weeks. We've heard it a million times. It could come in six months at this point.

What do you think?

BEGALA: I think Julie is right, that it could be a proxy war, but it doesn't have to be. Let me throw one more name out. Again, it's going to ruin the person's chances. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, she's our ambassador to NATO now, the most important multilateral organization in the world, with all respect to the U.N., the most powerful military alliance in world history, she has been our ambassador there.

As the president has at times thrashed NATO, she has protected America's interest there I think very admirably, very well. She's already been confirmed. She's a former senator, was on the Armed Services Committee. She would be confirmed in an afternoon.

And most importantly, wait, she's a Texas Longhorn. So, obviously, highly qualified.

BOLDUAN: You are so biased. It is impossible to even deal with you. BEGALA: I'm a fan of Senator Hutchinson, Ambassador Hutchinson. She

would be a terrific choice.

BOLDUAN: Doug -- yes, she is now never going to get it because you did that.

The president today said a lot of people, Doug, want Haley's job. Do you think many people do want this post? I mean, we know that spots have been a challenge to fill in the past.

HEYE: Sure. It's one of the most high profile foreign policy jobs in the world.

[19:35:00] Anybody who is interested in that line of work, that's the top job that you can get, basically.

But I would echo what Paul said, not just about Kay Bailey Hutchinson, but also about Dina Powell. It's very important for Donald Trump, we know that he's had obviously struggled with women. It's one of the issues of why this didn't happen during the Kavanaugh hearings and so forth. Donald Trump doesn't have a lot of women at the top of his administration. That's certainly more true in foreign policy.

So, having a Dina Powell or a Kay Bailey Hutchinson I think is a very smart move for the president, moving forward to continue the really strong work that Nikki Haley was performing for the administration.

BOLDUAN: All of you hidden geniuses. In my mind, let us see who is correct.

HEYE: Very hidden.

BOLDUAN: Very, very hidden for some of you.

Thank you, guys.

OUTFRONT for us next, Lindsey Graham says Donald Trump jokingly asked him if he wanted to be attorney general. What was Senator Graham's answer? Man, I wish I was on that golfing trip.

And a Democrat, a 29-year-old woman still paying off her college loans is leading her race in a congressional district won by Donald Trump. What is going on here?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: President Trump asked Republican Senator Lindsey Graham if he'd want to serve as attorney general. Senator Graham telling our Manu Raju that the president was joking. But was he?

You judge for yourself. The conversation took place on the golf course, of course, and it went something like, this according to Lindsey Graham. President Trump asking, quote, you wouldn't want to be attorney general, would you? Graham's response, no, I wouldn't give this up for anything. And then Trump, quote, yeah, I didn't think so. That would be kind of stupid. OUTFRONT now, CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The most honest conversation we've ever heard in politics, Kate.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Graham says he was joking about the attorney general job. I mean, do you buy it?

PRESTON: Yes, let's just pick this apart. Was Donald Trump joking? Probably in some way.

BOLDUAN: He is always joking and not joking. It depends on the answer I feel like.

PRESTON: A hundred percent. Donald Trump no doubt was floating a trial balloon. And let's not forget it was Lindsey Graham who has come out and basically has provided cover to Donald Trump with just a few weeks ago said he understood -- understands why he doesn't want Jeff Sessions as his attorney general.

BOLDUAN: Right.

PRESTON: Going in to a new year. So I don't know. And I bet you what, I bet you Lindsey Graham enjoyed being asked whether he wanted to be attorney general.

[19:40:03] BOLDUAN: Yes, regardless. And, of course, he is up in 2020. So, he is going to say I'm going to stay in this job as long as the good folks of South Carolina are going to keep me there. That's the answer you have to give, by the way.

Also tonight, though, Mark, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he's firing back at Hillary Clinton after Clinton warned Democrats in a CNN interview that in her view, civility isn't possible with Republicans in charge.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about. That's why I believe if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and/or the Senate, that's when civility can start again. But until then, the only thing that the Republicans seem to recognize and respect is strength.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: She told CNN exactly how she views millions of Americans who hold different political views from her own. No peace until they get their way? More of these unhinged tactics? Apparently, this is the left's rallying cry.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: I find this fascinating. I mean, Clinton is really going after Republicans here. But McConnell, I don't know if he can say he is exactly quoting her correctly. What's your take?

PRESTON: I feel like we're bringing Hillary Clinton back into the mix. Look, they put themselves back in the mix.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right.

PRESTON: She's done the interview. She's made the comments. But, gosh, we're like relitigating like, you know, days of Hillary Clinton as a U.S. senator and Mitch McConnell as U.S. senator and fighting over some type of legislation. But, look, it was very smart by Mitch McConnell to immediately seize upon those comments at a time right now when we've seen Republican support grow, certainly around the Kavanaugh hearings.

What he is trying to do is he is trying to send a message to the older Republican voters who still hate the Clintons, who are disgusted with the Clintons, who he needs to come out and vote in the midterm elections. Totally, a strategic play, and kind of a smart play actually on Mitch McConnell's part.

BOLDUAN: So, you got no civility on one side. You got mob rule on the other. Here is your branding for midterm. It's so uplifting. Great to see you, man. Thanks.

PRESTON: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT next, a new CNN poll shows Democrats ahead of Republicans by double-digits in the fight for Congress. Will it last, though, until Election Day?

And we also have new breaking details on the mysterious disappearance of a "Washington Post" contributor who vanished after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:45:45] BOLDUAN: Tonight, new signs of a blue wave. A CNN poll showing good news for Democrats come November, 54 percent of likely voters in the new poll say they'd choose a Democrat over Republican for Congress right now, 41 percent would pick a Republican over the Democrat. It's a 13-point gap. The new numbers giving hope to Democrats on the ballot, of course, especially one in a crucial swing district in Iowa, a district that voted for Obama, then for Trump.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT with the latest in our series "Born to Run."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In northeast Iowa, signs of a turning tide in a critical swing district.

(on camera): Did you vote for President Obama?

LARRY BLOCK, IOWA RESIDENT: One time I did, yes.

LAH: And how did you vote in this last presidential?

BLOCK: For the president, Trump as president.

There you go, Andy.

LAH (voice-over): Seventy-three-year-old Larry Block, Iowa born and raised, a typical first congressional district voter. They elected Obama twice. President Trump flipped it, winning by four points.

This November, Block says he is swinging back to Democrats.

(on camera): What do you think of Congressman Blum versus the challenger?

BLOCK: I would say it's probably just time for a little change. And that's where a lot of us I think anymore are voting. We like to see changes in politics.

LAH (voice-over): That change, challenger and Democrat Abby Finkenauer, age 29, four years as state lawmaker, still paying off her college loans, running on her working class upbringing to protect blue collar America.

ABBY FINKENAUER (D), IOWA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: This is not how we treat people in my state or in my country. And I was going to do whatever I could to get elected.

LAH: You're talking a lot about the forgotten people. That's what President Trump talked about, and he won this district.

FINKENAUER: President Trump in this administration walked around my district, walked around the state of Iowa saying that they cared about working families, and the last two years, all we saw are policies that go after them.

CROWD: Ain't nobody like a Democratic Party because the Democratic Party don't stop! Say what?

LAH: Democratic energy fuels rise against two-term incumbent Rod Blum. She is ahead in the polls.

CROWD: No hate, no fear!

LAH: Blum, weighed down by an ethics investigation was topped in recent fundraising. At the first debate, Blum slipped in through the back.

REPORTER: How you feeling about tonight?

REP. ROD BLUM (R), OHIO: Oh, great, finally getting to discuss the issues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to the first debate between the two candidates. LAH: The president's policies center stage.

BLUM: I believe the president. He broke Canada. He will break China, and our farmers will come out ahead for the next 20 years.

FINKENAUER: Look, this administration decided to start a trade war on Twitter. That's not how you get something done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. Have a great campaign, and good night, everyone.

LAH: Blum turned us down for an interview.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guy, I'm sorry, but he doesn't want to talk to anybody.

LAH (on camera): He just went out the back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

LAH: Blum is counting on supporters like John Hoffman.

JOHN HOFFMAN, IOWA RESIDENT: A lot of corn.

LAH: An independent, he voted for Obama and then Trump. While the trade war with China hurts him now, he wants Trump and Blum to have more time.

HOFFMAN: I think experience helps in anything you do in life. We'll see how that plays out with the voters in the district, though.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: Blum is considered among the most vulnerable incumbents running in this midterm. If Finkenauer should win, she will be making history. America has never elected a woman in her 20s to Congress -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Kyung, thanks so much. It was a really great look at that race. Really appreciate it.

OUTFRONT with me tonight, Larry Sabato is a founder and director of the University of Virginia Center of Politics. He also forecasts congressional races, of course, with his crystal ball project.

Great to see you, Larry. Thanks for coming in.

LARRY SABATO, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER OF POLITICS: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: So what is this race that Kyung took a great look at right there? What does this race in Iowa tell you about the larger landscape of the midterms right now?

SABATO: It tells you in the swing districts, in the first of Iowa, the first district of Iowa is very much a swing district. BOLDUAN: One of the most interesting things in the new CNN poll that

came out is the gender divide. It is a theme we have been talking about for a while now. But if you look at this new poll and you look at likely voters, 63 percent of women want the Democrats in their district. Just a third want the Republicans. You don't see nearly that margin when it comes to men.

What does that mean in these congressional districts?

SABATO: Well, it certainly is helping Democrats a great deal. It is pretty clear that women have been driving the surge in the Democratic Party in this particular midterm. There are a record number of women candidates from top to bottom of the ballot. And when you look at volunteers, activism and voters, as the CNN poll shows, you find that women are disproportionally Democratic, sometimes heavily disproportionate, and men are still leaning Republican in most places. So the gender gap is becoming a gender chasm.

BOLDUAN: It all depends, you know, gap or chasm, who turns out is what is going to matter in the end.

What can, let's say, Republicans -- what Republicans do? Do you see in the amount of time in your vast history in looking at these projections, do you see an amount of time to turn the tide on the gap that we're seeing in these generic ballots between Democrats and Republicans right now?

SABATO: I think there is only one way to do it, Kate. The Republicans will have to find ways, not just one way, but ways, to get more Republican women out to vote. Republican women, by and large, are sticking with the GOP because our major divide today isn't gender. It's party, R versus D.

So they need to do everything they can to get women re-engaged and out to vote. If they can't do that, then they're going to lose more districts than they expect.

BOLDUAN: Yes. All right. Larry, great to see you. Thank you.

SABATO: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, a "Washington Post" contributor vanished without a trace. Was he murdered? We have new breaking details about this story.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:56:44] BOLDUAN: Breaking news in the case of a "Washington Post" contributor who mysteriously vanished. Jamal Khashoggi, who has been a critic of the Saudi government, he disappeared after he walked into a Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey last week. A new report indicate some key surveillance video may be missing tonight.

Alex Marquardt is OUTFRONT with me now. Alex, what happened or at least what do we know happened that day at

the consulate?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we are learning more details that really just adds more layers to this mystery. The Turkish staff that works at that consulate was told to take the day off that Khashoggi disappeared. That's according to Turkish officials who spoke with "The Guardian" newspaper.

That newspaper also reporting that security footage, as you mentioned, from inside the consulate was removed and taken, they say, by private jet back to Saudi Arabia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: This was the last time Jamal Khashoggi was seen. Just after 1:00 p.m. exactly a week ago. CCTV cameras capturing him entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Since then, the mystery has only deepened. Family, friends and governments searching for answers.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know nothing right now. I know what everybody else knows, nothing.

MARQUARDT: The Saudis insist he left the consulate inside. Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate by a hit team that flew in. Everything, including entries and exits to the consulate are being investigated, Turkey's president said. Departures and arrivals to airports are also under investigation.

Consulate officials even took journalists on a tour of the building, to try to show they weren't holding him. Caught in the middle is Khashoggi's 36-year-old Turkish fiancee. Hatice Cengiz was outside as he went in to get a document so they could get married. She waited 11 hours.

Khashoggi had been concerned that something could happen. Maybe it's better if I don't go, he told his fiancee. He was worried that something might happen, she told "The Washington Post".

Khashoggi had once been an adviser to Saudi Arabia's royal authoritarian rulers. Overtime, he became such a critic, that last year, he went into self-imposed exile in Virginia. The threats followed.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI, MISSING JOURNALIST: I received a phone call ordering me to go silent with no court decree, with just someone from the royal court, an official from the royal court who was close to the leadership and ordering me to be silent.

MARQUARDT: Today, Saudi Arabia is all but run by the young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The prince has tried to project himself as a reformer while continuing to muzzle and arrest his critics.

KAREN ATTIAH, GLOBAL OPINIONS EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: I knew he had a lot of pressure. I knew he particularly felt the pressure that was being applied to his family to try to get to him. MARQUARDT: After an initial silence following the disappearance, the

Trump administration and Capitol Hill have stepped up their demands on Saudi Arabia for an explanation while Khashoggi's fiance waits. I am not giving up hope, Cengiz said, but I need to know, where is Jamal? I have to know what has happened to him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: Now, Kate, there is the possibility that Khashoggi is still alive, that he was smuggled out of the consulate to Saudi Arabia. Sources telling CNN that two jets belonging to a Saudi company that often works with the government brought 15 Saudis to Istanbul that very same day and left back to Riyadh that night.

So, it is possible that Khashoggi does re-emerge in Saudi Arabia, but, Kate, it's not looking good.

BOLDUAN: Yes, they still say he left that consulate that day.

Thanks so much, Alex. I appreciate it.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.